In the last few decades, so much has changed with regard to selling—and yet so much has stayed the same. The internet has transformed the face of retailing, creating well-informed customers who no longer want to be “sold to” and who are engaging with retailers not only less frequently but also later in the buying process. And yet this customer evolution makes the traditional salesperson arguably more important than ever before—helping customers find products and connect them to what was viewed online, resolving queries and processing purchases in an easy, seamless manner, all while making shopping an overall pleasant experience. It’s a tall order, but savvy retailers are up to the (selling) task.
Floor Covering News spoke with five creative dealers who shared how they thrive in this shifting marketplace and continue to make it easy for customers to make a purchasing decision.
Leverage relationships, reputation
Stephanie Landers, owner
Landers Premier Flooring, Austin, Texas
“We’ve really gone grassroots. What that means to us is using marketing tools such as Facebook, NextDoor and word-of-mouth to build that referral base. We found that most shoppers want to go with people they trust and are narrowing down the choices in their set. They used to go to three or four competitors while shopping, but now they go to one or two—or none at all—and might find us because we did their neighbor’s flooring or their mother’s flooring many years ago. I think customers are becoming less trusting of review sites. We have been in business for 17 years and pride ourselves on gaining customer reviews organically. When you are selling a commodity product like flooring, you really need to emphasize the added value of what your business can specifically offer.”
Connecting the online/ in-store dots
Ray Daya, principal/general manager
Westvalley Flooring, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
“The whole dynamic of selling flooring today has changed dramatically. Virtually every customer entering a specialty retail showroom has started their shopping experience online. Given the significant amount of information available, consumers are armed with specific and relevant details pertaining to their needs. Dealers have tremendous power to effectuate the process by using brands and displays that are synergistically incorporated into what consumers are seeing online. By creating a concurrence between the information online and integrating it with an in-store experience, dealers can dramatically encourage a positive purchasing decision and make it easy for consumers to confidently choose the right flooring.”
Educate but don’t overwhelm
Josh Elder, president
Gainesville Carpets Plus, Gainesville, Fla.
“The most important thing is to have your showroom clean and organized. Make it easy for the consumer to find what they are looking for. Also, make sure your RSAs are well educated. Homeowners today have done research online and have ideas of what they want. It is up to your RSAs to teach them and sometimes retrain then from what they have ‘learned’ online.”
Ask probing questions
Karla Wischmeyer, interior designer/showroom manager
Verhey Carpets, Grand Rapids, Mich.
“Our main goal is to make the shopping experience easy for the customer. We have seasoned showroom salespeople who have been with Verhey for a long time— from a minimum of 13 years up to 37 years, which is how long I’ve been with the company. We interact with guests from the get-go. Whenever a guest walks in, someone on the floor helps them right away. We don’t have a client just walk the floor on their own and figure it out. We have a series of questions we ask every customer: ‘How did you find us? Do you have pets? Do you have kids?’ ‘Does it matter where your flooring is made? Do you have any health concerns? What is your timeline?’ We talk them through the logistics. After a series of questions, we can guide the customer to the right product.”
Less (selection) is more
Brett Bentz, Harrisburg Wall & Floor, Harrisburg, Pa.
“We found having fewer manufacturers of the same like product lines eliminates confusion and helps the decision-making process. For example, having a higher- and lower-end product of the same manufacturer on display is easier for a consumer to see the differences of the two versus having four manufacturers with the same specs that all seem alike. When you have fewer manufacturers on the floor, if you’re a stocking dealer, chances are the consumer may select a product you purchased at a better margin.
“Also, the use of a room visualization tool has been a big help over the past few years. We try to show the consumer the tool in our showroom with a product they are considering—if they are still undecided.”